Nota del editor: Esta investigación de dos años, que reveló cuán avergonzado fue el árbitro Tim Donaghy para arreglar los juegos de la NBA que había hecho y los millones de dólares que salieron de la conspiración, se publicó originalmente en Lanzado el 19 de febrero de 2019. El 9 de julio es el aniversario de la renuncia de Donaghy de la NBA.

Acto 1: una media verdad conveniente

James «Jimmy» «Bah-Bah» «The Sheep» Battista era un hombre de 41 años estresado, con sobrepeso y adicto a los oxi que buscaba a algunos jugadores clandestinos por sumas que de alguna manera había perdido de vista. viendo un partido de la NBA con el que pensó que acababa de solucionar el problema. Era enero de 2007. Hace aproximadamente un mes, no mucho antes de Navidad, había hecho algo audaz: se sentó e hizo un trato con un árbitro de la NBA. Ahora temía que el plan se hubiera vuelto demasiado obvio.

«¿Quieres que te paguen?» Battista le había dicho al árbitro. «Entonces tienes que cubrir la propagación». El soborno fue de solo dos centavos, $ 2,000 por juego, una ganga escandalosa. Si la elección gana, el árbitro obtiene sus dos monedas de diez centavos. Si faltaba la elección, el árbitro no debía nada; Battista se comería la pérdida. Un «rollo libre» como lo llaman. Pero este árbitro no ha perdido mucho. Sus selecciones ganaron al 88 por ciento, lo que era completamente desconocido en las apuestas deportivas durante un largo período de tiempo. Ahora entraron en la sexta semana del programa, lo que podría llamarse un período más largo.

Battista había conocido al árbitro Timmy Donaghy durante 25 años. Habían asistido a la misma escuela parroquial en los barrios de clase trabajadora católica del condado de Delaware, a las afueras de Filadelfia, Delco, como se le llama a veces, donde hay muchos bares deportivos que están algo familiarizados con todas las formas de juego, donde los niños están Los corredores de apuestas sienten que tienen dentistas.

Battista era una criatura en el mundo. Era lo que se conoce como un motor. Estrictamente hablando, los motores no son jugadores ni corredores de apuestas. Son un tipo de corredor que brinda servicios de clima deportivo y hace apuestas en nombre de sus clientes con casas de apuestas de varios tipos en todo el mundo, legales y no legales. Battista estaba bien posicionado en este mundo que, sin el conocimiento de Donaghy, pero basado en las recomendaciones de Donaghy, había ayudado a construir algún tipo de fondo de cobertura desordenado y suelto. Varias personas del inframundo de las apuestas deportivas en realidad habían utilizado los fondos de Battista, un fondo que ahora apostaba en los juegos liderados por este árbitro de la NBA. Un miembro del grupo lo llamó «el boleto» y «la compañía».

«Quizás la compañía nunca se sentaba alrededor de una mesa», dice. «Pero todos tenían una porción de pizza». El principal problema ahora era bloquear la cosa.

En sus esfuerzos, Battista finalmente tuvo un asistente, otro amigo de la escuela secundaria, Tommy Martino, quien actuó como oficial de enlace en el programa Donaghy. Martino había sido amigo cercano del árbitro desde la infancia y tenía un trabajo diario como empleado de TI en JPMorgan. Con los teléfonos quemadores, Donaghy llamó a Martino y le informó de su elección para el juego que lideraba. Martino luego enviaría las elecciones a Battista. Battista y Donaghy nunca deberían hablar directamente. Battista pasaría el día enfocándose fuertemente en la selección de Donaghy. En general, según una persona que sabe cómo funciona, esperaba perder alrededor de $ 1 millón en dinero de los inversores en cada juego Donaghy.

Quieres que te paguen, tienes que cubrir el diferencialBattista le dijo a Donaghy. Pero Battista nunca usó la palabra «arreglar». O «influir» o «manipular» o discutir la mecánica de la fijación de cualquier manera.

«No fue necesario», dijo Battista a sus amigos. Todo el asunto solo se había asumido, una cuestión de fuertes alusiones. «La única mecánica que tenía en la mano. Tenía la tubería».

Sigue siendo uno Una de las preguntas más emocionantes en todo el deporte profesional estadounidense: ¿todavía hay manipulaciones de juegos? En los 100 años transcurridos desde 1919, cuando los jugadores ennegrecieron a los Medias Blancas de Chicago, solo el escándalo de Tim Donaghy ha dado la pista de una respuesta, pero también de un rechazo.

Durante 11 años, la historia oficial ha sido que Donaghy era un jugador villano y adictivo que hizo algunas apuestas en sus propios juegos, y nada más. La NBA realizó su propia investigación y concluyó que Donaghy en realidad no solucionó los juegos. Pero para muchos dentro y alrededor de la liga, persiste la sospecha de que no se ha contado toda la historia, que lo que realmente sucedió fue suprimido.

Es aún más importante ahora. El 14 de mayo del año pasado, la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos aprobó una ley federal de 1992 que prohibía a los estados legalizar el juego dentro de sus propias fronteras. En general, se cree que el fallo levantará la prohibición intergubernamental de las apuestas deportivas, lo que a su vez conduciría a un aumento masivo en el dinero gastado en deportes estadounidenses. Al mismo tiempo, la NBA, que una vez se opuso al juego, ha aceptado abiertamente las apuestas deportivas legalizadas más que cualquier otra liga deportiva profesional de los Estados Unidos. En 2014, el comisionado Adam Silver hizo un comentario Los New York Times Aprobación de legalización. En julio de 2018, anunció un contrato de varios años para MGM Resorts como el «socio oficial del juego de la NBA».

Los defensores de la legalización han argumentado durante mucho tiempo que la regulación conduce a la transparencia, lo que ayuda a erradicar los esquemas de manipulación de juegos. Sin embargo, hay mucha evidencia de lo contrario. El economista Vladimir Andreff, de la Universidad de París, escribió: «Todos los análisis económicos llegan a la conclusión de que cuanto más dinero se dedica al deporte, mayor es la corrupción en el deporte».

Y así, la decisión de la Corte Suprema de mayo requiere una revisión del asunto Donaghy. Si se demostrara que Donaghy realmente reparó los juegos que estaba repitiendo, revelaría una verdad incómoda que casi todos (ligas, equipos, fanáticos, jugadores) preferirían ignorar: lo fácil y rentable que es repararlos. Un deporte americano.

A principios de 2017, inspirado por el décimo aniversario del escándalo, ESPN se dispuso a investigarlo nuevamente. La investigación incluyó entrevistas con más de 100 personas, incluidos árbitros actuales y anteriores de la NBA, funcionarios actuales y anteriores de la NBA, jugadores, corredores de apuestas, abogados, agentes de la ley y amigos y familiares de Donaghy. (El propio Donaghy rechazó repetidas solicitudes de entrevista). Se han presentado solicitudes de la Ley de Libertad de Información. Se examinaron miles de páginas de documentos judiciales y documentos de investigación. Se han pasado cientos de horas viendo cada partido de la NBA que Donaghy oficiaba en la temporada 2006/07. Se registraron todas las faltas y se analizaron los datos resultantes, junto con el movimiento de la línea del mercado de apuestas para cada juego que Donaghy jugó nuevamente esta temporada.

La historia ahora se puede contar dos años después: esta es la cuenta final de cómo Tim Donaghy conspiró para arreglar los juegos de la NBA, y cómo involuntariamente enriqueció a varios jugadores con probablemente cientos de jugadores millones de dolares.


ACTO 2: UN PLAN SIMPLE

Mendy Rudolph, Yogi Strom, Jake O’Donnell, Billy Oakes, Ed. T. Rush, Joey Crawford, Steve Javie, Tom Washington, Mark Wunderlich, Duke Callahan, Ed Malloy, Mark Lindsay, Aaron Smith, Tim Donaghy: todos los árbitros de la NBA están actuales, retirados, muertos o (en el último caso) en desgracia, Todos nacidos y / o criados en el área de Filadelfia. Si hay una cuna de árbitros de baloncesto, está aquí.

Oakes era el tío de Tim Donaghy. Gerry Donaghy, su padre, usó rayas del más alto nivel en el baloncesto masculino de la NCAA durante mucho tiempo. Malloy, Crawford y Callahan asistieron a la escuela secundaria Cardinal O’Hara en el condado de Delaware, Alma Mater de Donaghy, una cuna en una cuna. «Era un trabajo para el que nací», escribió Donaghy en sus memorias de 2009. Falta personal, pero la oración tiene un doble significado. Bendecido con las conexiones correctas y después de cuatro años en el CBA, la liga menor de la NBA, fue nombrado a las Grandes Ligas en 1994. Tenía 27 años de edad.

La vida del árbitro tiene sus contradicciones. En la temporada es exigente, agotador, alto estrés. Pero la apariencia está bien pagada, incluso los recién llegados en 2007 podrían alcanzar seis cifras. Y luego está la temporada baja. En muchos sentidos, es como una jubilación parcial. «Si no fue una temporada de baloncesto, tuvo mucho tiempo», dice uno de los amigos de Donaghy.

En 1998, Donaghy se unió a un club de campo en West Chester, Pennsylvania, llamado Radley Run, en cuyas calles los Donaghys construyeron una casa espaciosa. En el club, desarrolló un círculo de compañeros de golf. Jugaron 18 hoyos cuatro o cinco días a la semana. Se jugaba al golf, pero también se bebía y se jugaba. Ha habido viajes frecuentes al Borgata, un casino en Atlantic City. En el casino, Donaghy llevaba una gorra de béisbol baja para ocultar sus ojos. Todos conocen las cámaras en los casinos, y la NBA prohibió todos los juegos de azar de sus árbitros (a excepción de las carreras de caballos, por extraño que parezca).

En casos raros, Donaghy estaba en casa. «Era un hombre soltero, casado y tenía cuatro hijos», dice Kim Donaghy, su ex esposa. «Jugó y jugó al golf».

El amigo más cercano de Donaghy en esta multitud probablemente era un hombre llamado Jack Concannon. Se conocían desde la secundaria. Como muchos en su cohorte, Concannon tenía un corredor de apuestas, Peter Ruggieri, que a menudo jugaba al golf con Donaghy y la tripulación de Concannon. Ruggieri era bajo, fornido, de cuello grueso y construido como un pequeño rinoceronte. En otras áreas además del club de campo, fue apodado Rhino.

Donaghy escribió que Rhino tenía un sistema de discapacidad para seleccionar a los ganadores de fútbol americano universitario y de la NFL. En octubre de 2002, Donaghy y Concannon decidieron juntar su dinero y elegir la opción de Ruggieri. (Concannon declinó hacer comentarios sobre esta historia). Esto fue una clara violación de las reglas de la NBA, pero Donaghy lo superó. «Empecé a pensar, o debería decir, racionalizar: S —, poner a todos los empleados«, el escribio.» Era como un fumador de marihuana que se cambió a la cocaína. «

Luego, en algún momento de 2003, Donaghy y Concannon cruzaron el Rubicón. Después de una ronda de golf, el informe de Donaghy dijo que los dos estaban solos en la casa club de Radley cuando decidieron apostar en la NBA. Pero no fue solo la NBA; Según los registros judiciales, decidieron apostar por los juegos de Donaghy.

HAY MUCHOS Malentendidos sobre el escándalo de Tim Donaghy. Quizás lo mejor es: Donaghy fue el árbitro que trabajó con jugadores en juegos de la NBA durante una temporada vergonzosa.

Eso está mal. Según un documento judicial, Donaghy y Concannon hicieron su primera apuesta en un juego que Donaghy arbitró en marzo de 2003: más de cuatro años y cuatro temporadas en la NBA antes de que lo atraparan.

Él comenzó pequeño. Ese primer marzo solo apostó en dos o tres juegos. Sin embargo, el volumen aumentó bruscamente la siguiente temporada: hizo entre 30 y 40 apuestas en los juegos en los que estaba trabajando. Lo mismo se aplica a la temporada siguiente y a la siguiente.

Lo hizo bien. Las propias declaraciones de Donaghy en sus memorias acumularon tanto dinero que tuvo problemas físicos para saber dónde guardarlo para que su esposa no hiciera preguntas.

Hoy Kim Donaghy vive en Sarasota, Florida, donde ella y su esposo y sus cuatro hijas se mudaron en 2005. Kim solicitó el divorcio a fines de 2007, unos meses después de que el escándalo se hiciera público. Cuando la visité recientemente en Sarasota, en la oficina donde trabaja, ella dejó en claro que el divorcio se había hecho esperar. «Tim era muy, muy secreto. Siempre estaba encerrado en una habitación por teléfono».

En Sarasota, Kim Donaghy imprimió las primeras 98 páginas de sus memorias inacabadas e inéditas para mí. La esposa del árbitro. En ella escribe sobre la paradoja de estar «solo para él» y «realmente temerle». Ella describe el momento en que recogió su chaqueta oficial de la NBA para ponerla en la lavandería y encontró «un enorme paquete de billetes de $ 100 enrollados en una banda de goma» en su bolsillo. ¿Que tan grande? Con el pulgar y el índice hizo una «O» con el diámetro de una naranja. Luchó por recordar exactamente cuándo, pero me dijo que probablemente comenzó a encontrar el dinero en 2004 durante la temporada. En ese momento, se dijo que el dinero provenía de las apuestas en campos de golf. Pero ella siempre encontraba esos bollos en sus bolsillos a lo largo de los años. Cuando le pregunté, ella dijo que nunca había contado el dinero y nunca lo había confrontado por su existencia.

«¿Por qué?»

Ella respondió en una palabra: «Miedo».

Lo llamaste La oficina. Un gran jugador llamado Mike Rinnier, que había hecho su fortuna en los supermercados del condado de Delaware, decidió en la década de 1980 financiar un pequeño sindicato de apuestas deportivas. Lo contrató con niños de la clase trabajadora de Delco que tenían la ambición de ganar dinero. «Eran personas inteligentes que simplemente no podían tener trabajos a tiempo completo», dice un ex jugador que los conocía. Battista, que había trabajado como barman, gerente de restaurante y pequeño estafador después de la secundaria, tenía poco más de 20 años cuando era ruidoso. Jugar el juegoRinnier, un libro sobre el escándalo del ex policía Don Patrick del ex Philly Sean Patrick Griffin, lo reclutó para unirse al grupo. Por casualidad, sus miembros tenían todos los apodos de animales a lo largo de los años: tigre, gallo, rinoceronte, foca, oveja. Y así, su sindicato se hizo conocido por algunos como los animales.

A principios de la década de 2000, el mundo de las apuestas deportivas experimentó un auge de las puntocom. Los corredores de apuestas del mercado negro de todo Estados Unidos, los entusiastas jugadores profesionales y los emprendedores con conocimientos digitales con habilidades de programación establecieron apuestas deportivas en línea y, a menudo, se establecieron en lugares con poca supervisión reguladora, como Costa Rica, Antigua, Jamaica y Curazao.

Los animales aterrizaron en Curazao, donde ayudaron a lanzar una apuesta deportiva en línea llamada PlayASAP. Estaba en una casa a una cuadra de la playa. Y allí los animales comenzaron a beneficiarse de un descubrimiento brillante en otoño de 2003: entre cerveza bajo palmeras en el Mambo Beach Tiki Bar, entre rondas de golf y sesiones de póker nocturnas en el casino del Holiday Beach Hotel.

Rhino Ruggieri reservó apuestas hechas por un amigo de su casa, un hombre que conocía del campo de golf llamado Jack Concannon. De vuelta en Filadelfia, Ruggieri había notado que el tamaño de las apuestas de Concannon era un orden de magnitud mayor en ciertos juegos de la NBA. Y estas apuestas ganaron, ganaron como Concannon nunca había ganado antes. Por lo general, este tipo era un apostador de $ 100 o $ 200 o quizás $ 500. Y generalmente este chico pierde. ¿Pero de repente este vendedor de seguros de salud recreativa puso cinco centavos en juegos seleccionados de la NBA y venció a los corredores de apuestas? ¿Por qué? Tenía que haber un patrón.

Ahora conectado a PlayASAP, Ruggieri hizo todas las apuestas que había reservado en casa, incluidos Concannons, en el sitio web de PlayASAP. Por lo tanto, todos en la oficina de Curazao tenían acceso a la cuenta de juego de Concannon. Habían estudiado sus misiones. La conclusión no había durado mucho. Como era miembro del mismo club de golf en casa, Ruggieri sabía que Concannon y el árbitro de la NBA Tim Donaghy eran amigos. Revisaron los juegos. ¿Quiénes fueron los árbitros? Efectivamente, allí estaba. Siempre fue uno de los tres. Atrapado Donaghy.

Santo s —! Ellos pensaron. Donaghy y Concannon apuestan por los juegos de Donaghy, y hacen un maldito asesinato.

Entonces, ¿qué haces si te encuentras con una posible conspiración criminal? Battista, Ruggieri y el resto de las apuestas de Concannon-Donaghy estaban en sus propias apuestas: $ 30,000, 50,000, $ 100,000 por juego, una persona familiarizada con las apuestas. Grandes sumas, pero si se manejan con habilidad, no lo suficientemente grandes como para alertar al mercado en general de que algo loco podría suceder. Es posible que haya tropezado con el borde final. Ahora tenía un trabajo: no pierda la ventaja dejando que la información se filtre. Si Donaghy usó su pipa para arreglar juegos era irrelevante. Cuando Donaghy se arrepintió y Concannon apostó, el lado en el que apostó cubrió la diferencia entre el 60 y el 70 por ciento de las veces. Los animales fueron tan lejos como para estudiar los puntajes de las cajas después de cada salida de Donaghy. «Cuando nos fijamos en las estadísticas», dijo un jugador en la oficina en ese momento, «se podía ver que estaba pidiendo más faltas contra el equipo al que apostaba y menos faltas contra el equipo al que apostaba. Eso fue obvio «.

Otro dijo: «¿Asumí que arregló los juegos? Sí, lo hice. Pero no le di una s — porque era una gran información. De 2003 a 2007 no nos perdimos un juego que jugó reffed tuvimos una apuesta «.


En una noche A principios de diciembre de 2006, Tommy Martino recibió una llamada urgente de Battista. Battista regresó de Curazao junto con el resto de los animales en 2004 después de que PlayASAP se pusiera de rodillas. Mientras tanto, Battista había decidido trabajar por cuenta propia como corredor de apuestas. Cualquiera que sea su problema, Battista dijo que no podía hablar de eso por teléfono.

Una década después, en la sala de descanso de la peluquería donde trabajaba, Martino me contó cómo fue: Martino ya sabía que su amigo Tim Donaghy había apostado en sus propios juegos de la NBA con Concannon y ganó esas apuestas. Después de descubrir esto, Battista ha seguido en gran medida estas apuestas durante los últimos cuatro años. Pero ahora, cuando Battista llegó a la casa de Martino, dejó caer la bomba.

Battista dijo que el gran problema era que los mercados de apuestas eran aparentemente sabios para desarrollar un hándicap increíblemente preciso. Como esta ventaja, este tesoro, estaba en peligro de evaporarse, Battista había decidido tomar el control directo del árbitro.

Martino no era un jugador, apenas había apostado en su vida. Pero había sido amigo cercano de Donaghy y Battista después de la secundaria, quienes a su vez nunca fueron tan cercanos. De esta manera, Martino se convertiría en el improbable puente sobre el cual viajaría la conspiración. Para Martino, Battista parecía desesperado e incluso asustado. «Tienes que hacer una cita con Donaghy», dijo Battista.

ERA DIC. 12 de 2006, un martes, una hora antes de la medianoche, en el Philadelphia Airport Marriott en el restaurante principal del hotel, que en ese momento era conocido como Riverbend Bar & Grille. Y allí, en el comedor vacío que estaba sentado en una mesa, Battista y Donaghy hicieron su trato con Martino como testigos. Battista exigió que Donaghy nunca apostara con Concannon nuevamente, y a cambio de proporcionar sus «consejos» de apuestas para Battista, Donaghy recibiría $ 2,000 por juego, pero solo si la selección ganara. Mucho después vendría a llamar a esta reunión «matrimonio».

Las cuentas de la reunión son diferentes. El acuerdo de Battista fue en realidad una extorsión, según declaraciones que Donaghy había hecho a las agencias federales de aplicación de la ley. Battista le dijo que no quieres que alguien de Nueva York vaya a tu casa. Además, no quieres que la NBA descubra lo que hiciste con Concannon.

Sin embargo, según Battista, fue Donaghy quien solicitó una reunión. Tanto Battista como Martino dijeron que no había amenazas, que todos estaban nerviosos, pero que la situación parecía copacetic y que lo que Donaghy vendió en el trato le dijo Battista: Sabemos que le das los juegos de Jack Concannon. Y luego Battista giró el cuchillo y le dijo cuánto había ganado Concannon.

Donaghy se levantó de la mesa. Tenía que ir al baño, dijo, señalando a Martino para que viniera conmigo. «A veces se pone tan pálido, se pone amarillo, lo juro por Dios», me dijo Martino. «En el baño, Donaghy dice: ‘Tom, ¿lo crees?’ Y yo dije: «¿Qué?» Creo que él dirá Oh s —! ¡Battista se dio cuenta de que estaba jugando juegos de jack! Pero no. Sabes lo que dice Él dice: ‘Hazlo creer ¿eso?’ Él dice: «Concannon hizo todo el dinero y no me dio nada ¡alguna cosa!‘»

De vuelta en la mesa, Martino y Donaghy le dijeron a Battista que tenían que ir a una estación de servicio cercana. Salieron de la estación con un paquete de papel, y justo allí, en el auto, Martino hizo rodar una articulación bajo las luces fluorescentes de la estación de servicio en el retorno de alquiler junto a la pista del aeropuerto internacional de Filadelfia. Lo dieron de un lado a otro: Battista, que solía oler algo de coca, estaba decepcionado, y cuando el automóvil se llenó de humo, hicieron un «pacto», dijo Martino. El pacto era: «No se lo digas a nadie. Porque te vas a meter en problemas».


Acto 3: ¿Qué pasa …

Los Celtics jugaron los 76 la noche después de la reunión de Marriott. Donaghy editó el juego. Ruidoso en el auto en la gasolinera Jugar el juegoDonaghy dijo: Apuesta por los Celtics. Fue su primera opción para Battista. Los Celtics, que fueron favorecidos con 2.5 puntos, ganaron en un reventón. Una fuente consciente de la conspiración dice que Battista ha hecho apuestas de hasta $ 500,000 en este juego: «Tuvimos una gran apuesta en él. Tuvimos una gran apuesta en cada juego».

Hacer apuestas al más alto nivel del juego deportivo es comparable al comercio de instrumentos financieros. Hay una sesión de negociación definida. Abre en la mañana y cierra poco antes del inicio. De hecho, es posible comprar y vender apuestas, tomar posiciones largas o cortas y protegerse. Las mejores compañías de mudanzas pasan años construyendo grandes redes de clientes y «outs» o contrapartes con las cuales las compañías de mudanzas pueden comerciar. Battista tenía tal red.

Don Best Sports, un servicio de información de apuestas, hace posible recuperar datos de movimiento de línea para juegos individuales de la NBA a partir de la edad de años. Es como mirar un gráfico de cotizaciones. Los datos registran fluctuaciones de precios. Si el margen se amplió durante la sesión de negociación, sabrá que la demanda de los jugadores para apostar en favoritos ha aumentado.

De hecho, el gráfico para el juego de Boston Philly el 13 de diciembre de 2006 muestra que el precio de Boston sube y luego baja. Grandes apuestas en Boston en medio de la sesión de negociación entre las 11:30 a.m. y las 3:30 p.m. causaron que el diferencial se ampliara de 2.5 a 3 a 4. En los mercados de la NBA, cada movimiento es de 1.5 puntos o más, según los expertos en apuestas. inmediatamente considerado como inusualmente serio, el resultado de millones de dólares.

La noche después de la victoria de Boston, los conspiradores se encontraron nuevamente, según todas las partes, en la casa de Martino en Boothwyn, un suburbio de Filadelfia. Battista llegó con una gruesa pila de billetes de $ 100 atados en una banda de goma: $ 2,000 por la tarifa acordada y $ 3,000 como edulcorante. Desde aquí, dijo Battista, él y Donaghy nunca se comunicarían directamente. Martino estaría en el medio en su lugar. Según la declaración de Martino, usarían un código con el FBI. Martino tenía dos hermanos. Uno, Johnny, vivía en Jersey. El otro, Chuck, vivía en Delco. Según Martino, la elección del equipo visitante fue cuando Donaghy mencionó el nombre de Johnny fuera del estado. Cuando Donaghy habló sobre Chuck, apostaste por el equipo local. No es exactamente el cifrado Enigma, pero es mejor que ladrar sobre ciertos equipos y correr el riesgo de que alguien escuche.

Idealmente, Donaghy debería hacer su elección lo antes posible, preferiblemente la noche antes de sus juegos, o al menos la mañana del. De esta manera, Battista podría comenzar a preparar los mercados y manipular los precios a su favor. Comenzaría antes del amanecer con los mercados de apuestas asiáticos enormemente líquidos, un grupo amorfo de apuestas deportivas por Internet con mercados negros y grises con sede en lugares como Manila y Kuala Lumpur. Por lo general, esto significaba hacer algunas apuestas falsas en la cabeza. Si crees que los Celtics son el lado que probablemente esté cubierto, ve a la tienda lo antes posible y pon algo de dinero en Filadelfia. Si lo haces bien, puedes bajar el precio de Boston. Luego, más tarde en el día, con el precio correcto, devora todo Boston que puedas. Según Martino y Battista, cuando Battista hiciera estas apuestas a Martino Donaghy, informaría sobre la propagación que tenía que cubrir. Y así comenzó …

Von Philadelphia hüpft Donaghy zu einem Nets-Heimspiel, dann 1.700 Meilen westlich nach Denver, dann hinüber nach Seattle, dann transkontinental nach Atlanta, dann südwestlich nach Houston, dann zurück nach Osten nach DC – Donaghy im Zickzack quer durch das Land, rein und raus NBA-Arenen, die Martino über diese billigen Bodega-Brennertelefone auswählen, aber nicht immer, weil sie manchmal ihre eigenen normalen Telefone vergessen und benutzen, denn wen interessiert das? – gewinnt und gewinnt und gewinnt und gewinnt, seine Auswahl gewinnt fast 100 Prozent. «Wie geht es Chuck?» «Sag Hallo zu Johnny für mich …»

Geldabfälle und Barabrechnungen in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania; in New York City; in Las Vegas; in San Francisco. Hundert-Dollar-Scheine in 10.000-Dollar-Packungen, in Gummibändern gebunden und von vertrauenswürdigen Gofern geliefert. Battista erhöht Donaghys Gebühr auf 5.000 US-Dollar für jede richtige Auswahl – winzig im Vergleich zu den Beträgen, die Battista jetzt gesetzt hat … Battista neigte den Kopf zu seinem Schreibtisch und schnaubte eine Reihe Cola, um wachsam zu bleiben und wach zu bleiben. Martino telefonierte spät in der Nacht mit Donaghy, wobei das Paar ein nächtliches Ritual vor dem Schlafengehen entwickelt hatte: Wenn Donaghys Wahl ein Gewinner war, wenn die Ausbreitung gedeckt war, rief Martino den Schiedsrichter und flüsterte «Guter Junge», und Donaghy hallte » Guter Junge «und dann auflegen …

Donaghy callte zwei Fouls im Abstand von 50 Sekunden gegen den Torschützenkönig der 76er, Andre Iguodala, im dritten Viertel gegen Boston, wobei der Vorsprung direkt auf dem Spread lag. Iguodala geht zur Bank; Boston deckt die Ausbreitung ab … Donaghy in Seattle, die Sonics, die die Mavericks ausrichten und 11 Fouls gegen Seattle sowie das letzte Foul der Nacht mit 23 Sekunden Vorsprung fordern. Dallas machte beide Freiwürfe und erhöhte seinen Vorsprung auf acht. Die Schlusszeile: Dallas um 8 … Donaghy am Neujahrstag in Charlotte mit 14 Fouls gegen die Bobcats, fünf gegen die Timberwolves; die Wölfe decken …

Battista schaute sich diese Spiele normalerweise zu Hause an, manchmal aber auch nicht. Das Zuschauen würde ihm Aufregung bereiten, sagte er, und an diesem Punkt müsste er den Fernseher ausschalten: «Ich erinnere mich, dass ich sagte: ‘Oh … er gerät außer Kontrolle.’ Es war zu offensichtlich. Ich sagte: «Wenn jemand das sieht, haben wir ein Problem.» «Und trotzdem ging es weiter …

Donaghy in Dallas am 30. Januar forderte ein Foul gegen die Heimmannschaft und zwölf gegen Seattle, darunter sechs direkt gegen die Sonics, als der Vorsprung 13 oder weniger betrug. Von 12 favorisiert, berichtet Dallas über … Donaghy in Miami forderte 12 Fouls gegen Charlotte, zwei gegen die Hitze. Die Hitzebedeckung … Donaghy in Toronto forderte vier Fouls gegen den Torschützenkönig der besuchenden Netze, Vince Carter, und zwang ihn auf die Bank, die letzte, die Donaghy callte, als der Schiedsrichter auf der gegenüberliegenden Seite des Bodens lag und die Raptors an der Spitze standen um drei. Toronto, favorisiert von 10.5, …

«Von 2003 bis 2007 hatten wir bei jedem Spiel, das er gespielt hat, eine Wette abgeschlossen.»

Ein Mitglied des Glücksspiel-Syndikats The Animals

Geld fließt jetzt in Spiele, die Donaghy als Schiedsrichter einsetzt. Die Linien während der Handelssitzungen schwingen heftig, wie Aktien, die von Übernahmegerüchten geplagt werden, die sich um 1,5, 3, 4,5 oder sogar 5 Punkte erweitern und verengen, was in der NBA nur bei bedeutenden Spielern der Fall ist Verletzungen … Battista knallt Pillen, Vicodin und OxyContin, manchmal schläft er am Esstisch in Restaurants ein, manchmal erbricht er Blut. Battista verkabelt und bleibt die ganze Nacht wach und spielt obsessiv, ausdruckslos Online-Blackjack und Poker und setzt sogar Wetten auf Sportarten, für die er keine besonderen Einsichten oder Insiderinformationen hatte, und verliert, verliert, verliert …

Und dann pfeift Donaghy 12 Mal Fouls auf der besuchenden Hitze im Madison Square Garden im Vergleich zu vier gegen die Knicks; the Knicks covering … Martino flying to Toronto to pay Donaghy and to party, ordering prostitutes from a website … Donaghy on March 14 in Indianapolis calling four straight fouls in the fourth against the underdog Pacers when they were losing by six to the visiting Wizards. Favored by 6, the visiting Wizards covering … Battista on March 15 confessing to his wife that he’d lost $7 million of his clients’ money … Battista on March 16 strung out and sleepless at Martino’s house and surrounded suddenly by almost his entire immediate family. An intervention … Battista two days later wearing a bathrobe in rehab.


ACT 4: … MUST COME DOWN

Phil Scala had been investigating organized crime in New York City for almost 30 years when his squad received the tip. Each of the city’s famous Five Families — Genovese, Lucchese, Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino — has a dedicated FBI unit investigating it full time, and Scala was the boss of the one focused on the Gambinos. Based in an anonymous office building in Kew Gardens, Queens, Scala and his agents had spent years assembling a network of informants inside the gang.

And now, Scala would later tell me, one of the squad’s snitches had divulged this new tip, too delicious to be ignored. An NBA referee, according to the informant, was «in the pocket» of some people in the sports-gambling underworld. The informant didn’t know any names, and the people with the ref in their pocket did not appear to be made members of the Gambino crime family. But the crucial betting information — which sides of which games the ref favored — had been seeping into the black-market gambling business. In particular, a crew of Gambino thugs in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn had figured out the formula and was supposedly, from what this informant had heard, winning millions on this ref’s games. Illegal sports gambling was not Scala’s focus. But stomping out a Mafia profit center was.

«They told us, ‘You can’t fix a game in the NBA. It’s impossible.’ That was the company line.»

Former FBI agent Phil Scala on the NBA’s response to the scandal

Scala reached the FBI’s mandatory retirement age in 2008 and is now a private detective based on Long Island. But he has kept the investigative notes he took on his FBI cases, including the Donaghy case. Not long ago, he brought them out, looked at them and told me about them over the phone. (When I asked if I could see the notes myself, he laughed. «Uh, no.») He said his old squad had received the initial ref-in-the-pocket tip in October 2006 — almost two months Vor Battista had made his marriage with Donaghy.

Scala’s squad went to work. Phone records of gamblers said to have connections with the Gambino crime family were obtained and analyzed, phone numbers traced back to names. As Scala told me, «If you can envision a spiderweb — it might not be directly, but one or two or three spheres out, you find a name. … And then one afternoon the case agent came into my office. He said, ‘We found the guy. We found the referee.'» His name was Tim Donaghy.

In April 2007, a few days after Battista checked out of rehab for drug abuse, FBI special agents Paul Harris and Gerard Conrad knocked for the first time on Battista’s door. They knew all about what he’d done, they told him; he was looking at 20 years. Better to cooperate. Lawyer, Battista replied.

Just before entering rehab, according to Martino and law enforcement documents, Battista had handed over the reins of the operation to Rhino Ruggieri. Ruggieri was to play the same role Battista had — mover, fund manager. (Ruggieri did not respond to requests for comment.) But soon enough, Martino says, Rhino learned about the nature of Battista’s deal with Donaghy. He and the other Animals who’d been following the bets were not happy. By now the spreads were moving violently. Word about Donaghy had permeated the market, followers following followers. Battista «was just ruining something that was totally quiet, that nobody knew about,» said one of the Animals. «He started betting it with everybody and moving the lines like crazy. It was like: Why would you do that?»

In any case, Ruggieri before long decided to shut the whole thing down. The final game, Martino remembers, was a loss.

The effort to hide it was in vain. A grand jury in the case had been convened as early as February, according to FBI documents, and on May 30, Tommy Martino testified before it. Hours later, he called up Donaghy to tell him. In his memoir, Donaghy writes that he was standing on the first tee at his home golf club in Sarasota with a driver in his hands when he took the call from Martino. His body turned numb. He thought he was having a heart attack. «The only concern I had,» he wrote, «was saving my own selfish sorry ass.» By June 15, Donaghy was sitting inside the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York in downtown Brooklyn, naming names and making a statement.


SIX DAYS LATER, on June 21, Scala, Harris and their boss, Special Agent in Charge Kevin Hallinan, traveled to the NBA offices in midtown Manhattan and sat down with commissioner David Stern and three other league executives: deputy commissioner Adam Silver, president Joel Litvin and senior vice president of security Bernie Tolbert, a former FBI agent. The agents informed Stern that it had come to their attention that one of their veteran refs, Tim Donaghy, had been betting on his own games and giving inside information to a gambling ring, for a fee. The Feds made no mention of game-fixing. To Scala, Stern seemed mostly upset that the NBA’s in-house security people had failed to discover Donaghy’s wrongdoing before the FBI. The commissioner promised the league’s full cooperation.

Today, Scala considers that meeting a mistake. «If you’re going to ask me if I would do it differently now, the answer is yes. I would not have gone to brief Stern,» Scala told me. (Through the NBA, Stern declined an interview request for this story.) In Donaghy’s many conversations with the Feds through these weeks, he had begun pointing fingers and making allegations about other referees — other refs who may have been corrupt. So the FBI had worked out a plan. «We were prepared to do some undercover things to corroborate Donaghy’s story,» Scala says. Namely, they were going to wire up Donaghy so he could get other allegedly corrupted NBA referees to incriminate themselves.

About a month after the meeting with Stern, however, the New York Post blared news of the FBI investigation across its front page. «Our plans were blown up by the fact that somebody leaked this,» Scala lamented to me. «I don’t like to talk in terms of coulda, woulda, shoulda, but if the Post story didn’t come out, [Donaghy] would have worn a wire, and I don’t know where it would have gone. Things may have been different. That’s the bottom line.»

Scala, at the time, was livid. He even contacted Murray Weiss, the Post reporter who wrote the story, to uncover the source of the leak. But Weiss, a veteran newsman, protected his source. «He said, ‘I can’t tell you. It came from above,’ » Scala recalls. (When I contacted Weiss, who now works as a producer for CBS News’ 48 Hours, he said he didn’t recall this conversation.) Scala won’t say whether he believes the NBA leaked the story. But Warren Flagg, a private investigator and former FBI agent who worked with Donaghy’s attorney during the case, will. «Someone in the NBA notified the press [in order] to stop this investigation, in my opinion. To shut it down.»

Weiss disputes that; he told me his tipster wasn’t affiliated with the NBA «as far as I know.» But the longtime crime reporter says he did at one point talk to a person «involved with Stern and the NBA in that era.» The person wanted to deliver a message about Weiss’ more critical reporting on the scandal. «I was warned,» Weiss told me, «that if I stumbled, Stern would do anything he could to crush me. I was told, ‘They’re the kind of people who will do anything they can to protect themselves and the game.'»

ACCORDING TO SCALA, the truncated probe meant the Feds left several lines of inquiry hanging. Among them: Who made the real money? Who besides Donaghy, Battista and Martino was in on it?

There have been hints and suggestions. There is a footnote buried deep in Gaming the Game that refers to someone taking home in excess of $200 million. Several sports-betting experts — two former underground movers and a longtime professional NBA gambler — agreed that global markets contained enough liquidity in 2007 for an in-the-know bettor to win as much as $100 million.

There’s also Scala, who told me he heard from his informants that underground gamblers «could have been making over a hundred million dollars» on Donaghy’s games. Perhaps this is why the men who formed Battista’s loose, disorderly investor group, the men who were «on the ticket,» have, for all these years, remained in the shadows. They were the gamblers and bookmakers closest to Battista. They were among his biggest brokerage clients and most trusted outs. Whether or not Battista made them explicitly aware of his agreement with Donaghy, their money was used to make one very specific genre of bet: games refereed by Tim Donaghy. They were the real moneymakers of the Donaghy scheme.

And now they can be identified.

One of them was a man nicknamed Tiger. In 2003 in Curaçao, when the Animals had made their original deduction and followed the Donaghy-Concannon bets, Tiger had been the leader of the Animals’ betting office. «Tiger was the brains behind that group,» says one gambler who knew them well. «No way Battista kept this quiet from Tiger,» another told me. «Tiger was his boss.» They were also brothers-in-law; the women they’d married were sisters. By most accounts, Tony «Tiger» Rufo is no longer a gambler. Over the course of the past decade, he’s built a company that has become one of the biggest Planet Fitness franchisees in the nation, with more than 30 locations and exclusive rights to the regions of Philadelphia and Chicago. (Rufo declined to comment for this story.) One of Rufo’s business partners in the gyms was his old Animals colleague Rhino Ruggieri. The management entity that controls the gyms is registered as Rhino Holdings, and according to its articles of incorporation, it was formed in Delaware County in February 2008.

Another man who profited off Donaghy was a well-known New York and South Florida bookie and whale who sometimes went by the nickname Popeye on account of his oversize forearms. He was a man who was, as they say, connected; a man from whose open hotel room window once dangled a person in debt to a Bonanno crime family member; a man whose clients included Hollywood celebrities; and a man who, back in June of 2006, had sat with Battista in a VIP box at Citizens Bank Park for an interleague Phillies-Yankees game. That was when he told Popeye that, come the 2006-07 NBA season, Battista would need to increase the size of some of his NBA wagers. These games would be mostly winners, so Popeye should feel free to move them — and copy them too. Popeye, no dummy, asked the obvious question: Who’s the handicapper behind these games? And Battista, perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not smartly, gave him the truth. There was this NBA referee named Tim Donaghy … Popeye’s eyes grew wide. Popeye, who died of heart disease in 2014 at age 61, was born in Manhattan and raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, but remained estranged from most of his family for most of the rest of his life. Popeye’s real name was Taylor Breton, and he was the great-great-grandson of Marcus Goldman, the founder, in 1869, of Goldman Sachs.

Another key figure was Joseph «Joe Vito» Mastronardo, a major black-market bookie who served as Battista’s most significant out. Married to the daughter of powerful Philly mayor Frank Rizzo, who held office in the 1970s, Mastronardo was well-connected. He had many lucrative gambling-related businesses. He served, for example, as a kind of shadow bank for the global underground gambling industry. For that reason, he had a lot of cash on hand. (The last time he was arrested, the police dug up his yard and found sections of PVC pipe buried there. Inside the pipes was $1.1 million.) To help get his clients’ bets down, Battista as a bet broker needed Joe Vito. That’s why, according to someone close to both men, Battista had no choice but to apprise Mastronardo of the Donaghy situation, to tell Joe Vito that this ref was picking sides in his own games-and, most likely, using his whistle to help the bet win. Joe Vito cannot speak to that today; he was busted in 2012 at age 63 for illegal bookmaking in an unrelated federal case. In 2015, Mastronardo had a stroke and died in prison.

Another moneymaker — according to people with knowledge of the events — was a man named Spiros Athanas. Born in Greece in 1960, a Boston street bookie in the 1980s, Athanas by the late 1990s had moved to Jamaica, where he turned himself into a sharp bettor and bookmaker on a global scale. According to multiple sources, Battista first began moving bets for Athanas in 2005. And at some point, per a person close to the situation, Battista had to tell Athanas, a heavy NBA bettor, that Battista believed he had a profitable edge; a different person close to Athanas’ syndicate a decade ago told me that Athanas bet more heavily on Donaghy’s games in the 2006-07 season than he did on other NBA games. An attorney for Athanas wrote to ESPN that Athanas never «received information that Tim Donaghy … was making wagers on games in which he was the referee,» and so never made any bets based on any knowledge of the scheme. In 2013, Athanas was indicted as part of a federal sports-betting case that was unrelated to Donaghy. He forfeited $5 million, agreed to three years’ probation and now lives in the Lakes Region of central New Hampshire, in a home with views of the cold blue lakes and, beyond them, the massed forms of the White Mountains.

ACT 5: THINGS THAT ARE HIDDEN …

One morning in early July 2007, Ronnie Nunn was asleep in a hotel room in Las Vegas when his cellphone buzzed him awake. Nunn, then the director of NBA officials, was in town for the NBA summer league games held annually among the casinos, where referee candidates from the minors are assessed for possible promotion to the Show. His mind still foggy with sleep, Nunn could hear the voice of his boss, Joel Litvin, then NBA president, asking questions about Tim Donaghy. Litvin’s tone was urgent. Had Nunn heard anything about Donaghy’s resignation? Had he heard about Donaghy’s gambling «issues» — about what he had done? Now sitting bolt upright, Nunn answered «no» to all the questions. Litvin then filled him in on the worst of it and told him there was an ongoing investigation, instructing him to say nothing about any of it to anyone. Then he hung up.

A few weeks later, four days after the Post story broke, David Stern gave his first news conference. His messaging was clear: Donaghy was a rogue. He’d acted alone. This was an episode of gambling, yes, but almost assuredly not match-fixing. «Indeed,» Stern assured the assembled media, «as a matter of his on-court performance, he’s in the top tier of accuracy.»

Stern’s conclusion that Donaghy did not fix games would be validated by the federal investigation. Donaghy, in August 2007, and Martino, in April 2008, would plead guilty to two charges: conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to transmit gambling information. Battista would cut a deal, pleading guilty in April 2008 only to the charge of transmission of gambling information. Martino would receive a year and Donaghy and Battista 15 months each in federal prison. But while Donaghy would admit to betting on his own games in his plea agreement, he would not admit to fixing games.

Around the same time as Stern’s news conference, the NBA also commissioned an investigation, to be led by Larry Pedowitz, a partner with the elite New York law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. With a team of four young lawyers, Pedowitz took a little over a year to conduct the probe and write up the findings in a 133-page report. (Pedowitz, who has retired from his firm, did not respond to requests for comment. David Anders, an attorney who helped Pedowitz run the investigation, declined to comment.) His brief was to audit the entire NBA referee program for corruption, but he also had a narrower goal: figuring out whether Donaghy had indeed fixed games. And, if he did, what was his method?

To answer those questions, Pedowitz convened a group of NBA basketball operations personnel to watch games worked by Donaghy during the 2006-07 season — but the ensuing report did not fully explain the limited number of games they decided to review. The FBI had discovered that Donaghy had wagered on as many as 40 of his own games with Concannon during each of the three seasons between 2004 and 2006. Based on information from Tommy Martino, among others, there were reasons to suspect Donaghy had money on the vast majority of his games during the fateful 2006-07 season, from the very beginning until as late as April 11 — 65 games in all. Yet the number of games reviewed by Pedowitz’s group of NBA employees was only 17.

In this, Pedowitz followed the lead of federal investigators, who had analyzed video of Donaghy’s games — recruiting Nunn himself to review eight of them — based on Donaghy’s admission to the Feds that he’d wagered on just 16 of his own games in the final season of his career. (The Feds never said which 16 games they were, so Pedowitz’s team had to deduce them from court documents and FBI requests for game videos, and the set of possible games it came up with was 17.)

The NBA employees «examined every play and determined whether, in their view, Donaghy’s calls (or absence of calls) were correct.» According to the report, only one of those 17 games, Pistons at Nets on Dec. 16, 2006, «raised concerns that Donaghy’s calls and substantial errors might have been aimed at favoring Detroit (which covered the point spread).» In this game, the second after the marriage with Battista, Donaghy called five straight fouls on New Jersey in the fourth quarter when the spread was in doubt. Just one game of potential funny business out of 17 wasn’t nearly enough to accuse the referee of anything.

And so, in the end, on the question of whether Donaghy fixed, Pedowitz upheld the findings of the U.S. Attorney’s Office — which never charged him with such crimes. «Based on our review, and with the information we have available, we are unable to contradict the government’s conclusion.»

«You could see he was calling more fouls on the team he bet against and less fouls on the team he bet on. That was obvious.»

A gamber in The Office at the time

But Scala, the FBI agent who pursued the case, has doubts. «Donaghy says he never threw a game,» Scala told me. «But you know what? That never really flew with us.» According to Scala, his and the FBI’s position has always been that Donaghy’s deals with Concannon and Battista irrevocably «tainted» his capacity for officiating, even if only subconsciously. (This notion even found its way into the Pedowitz report itself.) Scala recalls that he and Donaghy went around and around on the issue. «I said to him, ‘Listen, don’t tell me that you have some independent, decision-making ability in your mind’s computer that’s going to be unbiased, because that’s not going to f—ing happen. All those gray-area decisions you have to make, Tim? Because you’re betting on the game, your judgment is off — and you threw the game.'»

Still, in Scala’s telling, the FBI eventually just had to move on. Short of an outright confession, how could you prove that Donaghy had fixed the games anyway? And what more did you want? The guy’s career was ruined and his life in shambles. They’d shut down a Gambino profit center. They were an organized crime squad, dealing with murder and mayhem. They had to get back to it. The Feds’ job, on this one, was done.


IT WASN’T JUST Donaghy who tried to convince the FBI that he didn’t fix games. The NBA did too. Whenever Scala’s special agents interviewed NBA executives for the case, they heard a refrain: «They told us, ‘You can’t fix a game in the NBA. It’s impossible,'» Scala says. Too many invested observers — referee supervisors, coaches, players, owners, media, fans — would be too quick to complain if they saw something fishy, the NBA argued. But as Scala put it, «When someone tells you something’s impossible, you know they’re full of s—, because nothing’s impossible. But that was the company line.»

Simply put, to show that Donaghy fixed games would suggest that it’s easier for gamblers to manipulate games than any sports league would want to admit. Conspiracy theories about corrupted refs have dogged the league for decades. For that reason, the NBA is particularly wary of any hint of the fix. Even if it made them strange bedfellows, then, Donaghy’s denials of match-fixing guilt were, in the end, a gift.

After Donaghy, the NBA put into place a host of new measures designed to detect any nascent game-fixing schemes. They included a beefed-up computerized system for monitoring refs’ foul calls; enhanced scrutiny of betting-line fluctuations that might reveal suspicious wagering; the hiring of staff with experience in law enforcement, security and data analysis; and even the cultivation of tipsters within the sports-gambling industry who could relay rumors of possible corruption.

But at the time the scandal broke, the NBA closed ranks. Lamell McMorris served as the lead negotiator for the referees’ union in its collective bargaining with the league. «David Stern and I had never interacted much, and when we did it was not positive,» McMorris told me. «But Donaghy changed our working relationship. It was either sink or swim together for all of us.»

When the FBI began interviewing Donaghy’s referee colleagues, the agents, according to Scala, eventually spoke to perhaps 10 of them. According to the FBI’s investigation files, obtained in an FOIA request, some referees had to be served with subpoenas before they would talk to the Feds. The notes taken by the agents during these interviews have a mantra-like similarity: «recalled feeling ‘shocked’ when he learned about Donaghy … did not discuss this matter with other referees» … «described his initial reaction as ‘surprised’ and ‘shocked,’ and stated that he did not discuss this matter with any other referees» … «described Donaghy as a very accurate referee with few missed calls» … «did not hear other refs discuss TD … thought he was a good ref.»

To this day, what amounts to something like a self-imposed gag order on the subject of Donaghy persists, even among those refs who no longer work for the league. To discuss Donaghy with more than a dozen of them now is to sense that their silence has more to do with the fact that they hate the guy. None of them says anymore that Donaghy «was a good ref.»

«I didn’t touch it 10 years ago, and I’m not touching it now. … Don’t be fishing, because you ain’t getting anything out of me.» … «I refuse to comment on him. I refuse to talk about him.» … «No one wants to talk about that. Or even put him in any kind of limelight at all. It’s despicable.» … «I think there’s enough that’s been written about Tim Donaghy.»

Not every retired referee is reticent. There is, for one, Ed T. Rush, former NBA director of officials, a Philadelphia native and, for 32 years, a referee at the highest level, starting in 1966. When Donaghy was still slogging it in the minors in the early 1990s, Rush had taken it upon himself to mentor his young fellow Philadelphian. The Philly ref blood runs deep. «His father is an outstanding man,» Rush, now retired, says today. «We all had expectations that Tim was going to be really, really good. And he could have been.»

After the scandal, Rush was among those NBA personnel tasked by Pedowitz with reviewing a set of Donaghy games for evidence of game-fixing. 
Rush recalls watching maybe 10 such games. What did he see? When I asked, I expected Rush to answer much the same as Nunn had to me: Nothing out of the ordinary. No hay nada que ver aquí. Move along.

Instead, he surprised me. «There were lots of whistles in the game, by him, that did not fit the game,» he says. «It’s called literal interpretation.»

In the early 2000s, Rush went on to explain, the NBA undertook a wholesale revision of its refereeing guidelines, changes that would naturally lead to the entire NBA referee corps calling a greater volume of fouls, at least initially. All this occurred while Rush was director of officials, from 1998 to 2003. «And like everything else, when you make changes, initially you’ll have an overreaction. Typically. Then people settle in.»

But Donaghy didn’t settle in. Rush, as director of refs, took notice but didn’t think much of it at the time. It was only later, in 2007, after Donaghy had been exposed, that Donaghy’s letter-of-the-law foul-calling acquired a darker hue. Watching games for Pedowitz, Rush noticed the same propensity to call «literally interpreted» fouls in situations where they were not warranted — ones that ran counter to the flow of the game. Only this time, Rush viewed these calls with suspicion. Still, as Rush explained to me over the phone, these were just «trends,» not «red flags,» and the NBA and the Pedowitz people were interested only in red flags. «They were looking for something real obvious. A play that had to be called one way and that [Donaghy] called the other way. That’s what they were looking for. I didn’t find it.»

In the end, Rush felt there was no need to relay his observations to the Pedowitz people. He felt the trends were embodied in the stats: The volume of Donaghy’s calls was noticeable; it must be obvious to all. And so nothing about any of this would end up in Pedowitz’s final report.

ACT 6: … CAN BE FOUND

What does it mean to «fix» a game? And how, in turn, could you uncover evidence of it years, even a decade, later? The methods of fixing are rather straightforward. A player who’s on the take can shave points, purposely missing baskets, say, in an effort to lower the score for his side. A ref, on the other hand, can effectively add points — calling fouls that result in free throws. And if a ref were to target one particular team with fouls, he could push the score for the opposing side higher than it otherwise would be.

So where to begin? Donaghy officiated in 40 games between the marriage on Dec. 12, 2006, and March 21, 2007, which according to one source is likely the last game before Ruggieri took control of the scheme. We began by obtaining the trading histories for those games and through those determined which team was the more heavily bet upon. Furthermore, exceedingly large price jumps or plunges, or even the timing of certain price moves, could signal the trading strategies of a gambling syndicate. For all their desire to ply their trade in secrecy, sophisticated gambling syndicates often leave traces. Through them, we deduced which side Donaghy had picked for Battista to bet on.

«By six points either way. That’s what he told me.»

Tommy Martino on how much Donaghy said he could influence an NBA game

Next, we pulled game videos for all 40 games and employed a researcher with an extensive background in officiating to watch them closely, logging all of Donaghy’s and his fellow referees’ foul calls. (Of those calls, 2.6 percent could not conclusively be attributed to a referee and were excluded from the study.)

It is normal, of course, for a referee to call more fouls against one team than the other. There will almost always be an imbalance of calls. But examine that imbalance against the financial imbalances discovered in the trading histories-which side received the heavier betting — and the important comparison isn’t between Donaghy’s foul calls and the team that won the game. The important comparison is to the team that received the greater amount of betting dollars.

Once we completed all of that, what we uncovered was that Donaghy’s foul calls favored the team that received the heavier betting 70 percent of the time. But we also found that in 10 games during that 40-game span, one team was defeating the other team to such a degree that the spread was rarely in doubt. A referee wishing to manipulate game scores on these occasions would likely find he lacked much ability to sway the matter — or the need to do so, if the score was already in his favor. And so, controlling for blowouts by removing those games from the ledger, what we ultimately found was this: Donaghy favored the side that attracted more betting dollars in 23 of those 30 competitive games, or 77 percent of the time. In four games, he called the game neutrally, 50-50. The number of games in which Tim Donaghy favored the team that attracted fewer betting dollars? Drei.

In other words, Donaghy’s track record of making calls that favored his bet was 23-3-4.

If one assumes there should be no correlation between wagers and the calls made by a referee, the odds of that disparity* might seem unlikely. And they are. When presented with that data, ESPN statisticians crunched the numbers and revealed: The odds that Tim Donaghy would have randomly made calls that produced that imbalance are 6,155-to-1.

We also passed along our data to Keith Crank, who served for 15 years as the program director in statistics and probability at the National Science Foundation. To control for bias, he performed what’s called a hypothesis test on these numbers, which would produce a P value, or a probability, for Donaghy’s calls in each game in the 2006-07 season. He then did the same set of calculations for the other two referees on the floor in each of Donaghy’s games. Crank’s method boasted a certain elegance: It would capture any bias a ref might display in as simple a way as possible. Blowouts would be included. No line-movement data would be required.

Crank then calculated the P value for just Donaghy’s calls for the entirety of the season in question. It was 0.232. In other words, there was a 23.2 percent chance these foul calls would happen randomly. Unlikely but not outrageously so. But Crank didn’t stop there. There was, after all, that definitive frame within the 2006-07 season: the 40 games between the beginning of the marriage and the end of Battista’s involvement. And if you exclude two split-foul calls — the same foul called by two refs simultaneously and credited to both — the P value for Donaghy’s calls in that set of games was 0.041, or 4.1 percent.

To professional statisticians, any P value of less than 5 percent constitutes a signal that is «significant.» It means you’ve found something. In our case, it means there’s just a 4.1 percent chance that an unbiased ref would have randomly made the calls that Tim Donaghy did during his crooked run.


IN A STATEMENT to ESPN at the end of January, the NBA said: «To be clear, the Pedowitz team and the NBA performed substantial statistical and data-based analyses to determine whether Donaghy attempted to manipulate games he officiated. All of our efforts were focused on understanding precisely what he did and how he did it so we would be best equipped to protect the integrity of our games going forward.»

The NBA wouldn’t share the specifics of those statistical analyses, but it did describe them in summary form. According to the league, the studies were based on «the entirety of the period during which Donaghy had admitted to gambling on games,» including 194 games refereed by Donaghy himself, and entailed examinations of «officiating accuracy,» «lopsided [foul] calling and the magnitude of lopsidedness,» the timing of his calls during games, foul-call «streaks» and call volumes, along with an analysis of «all associated betting lines and movements.»

«These analyses,» the NBA told ESPN, «did not support your finding that an unbiased official would not have made the calls that Donaghy did.»

TIM DONAGHY HAS always publicly denied that he deliberately manipulated games so as to win bets, arguing that he based his picks on insider information. Privately, however, he has at times taken a different position.

Ever since Donaghy emerged from prison in 2009, he has lived in the same unit in a town house apartment complex in Sarasota. He has given up making betting picks for a tout service, which he did for a time after his release from prison. His income now reportedly comes from rental properties he owns.

But before Donaghy even got out of prison, an imprint of Random House was reportedly set to publish his memoir. Per an account in New York magazine in 2015, the NBA somehow persuaded Random House to kill the book. Donaghy then found another publisher: a small, independent, newly established outfit — so new that Personal Foul would be its inaugural volume — based in Tampa, Florida, and operated by a political consultant and publicist named Shawna Vercher. That relationship would eventually turn acrimonious, winding up in court, with Donaghy successfully suing Vercher in 2010 and accusing her of stealing his book proceeds.

But the genesis of their falling-out occurred when Donaghy was still making the rounds to promote the book, according to documents filed in court as part of the lawsuit. The falling-out involved a polygraph test. Vercher told me that, in December 2009, after questioning from reporters, including ones from ESPN, she had wanted Donaghy to take a polygraph that asked point-blank whether he’d fixed games. Donaghy said he couldn’t do that, Vercher recalled in a deposition. His attorneys, he told her, had advised him not to. Vercher asked him why.

Because, he replied, he would fail it.


IT WOULD NOT be the only time Tim Donaghy would come clean.

«He can influence a game six points either way — that’s what he told me,» Tommy Martino said as we sat in the break room of his family’s hair salon, where he’s worked since he got out of prison in August 2009 after serving 10 months.

It took a second for me to comprehend what Martino was telling me. «When did he tell you this?» I asked. Martino couldn’t remember, not exactly. «During all this s—,» he said.

Martino did recall Donaghy telling him that certain games would be unfixable. In Martino’s words, «Blowouts, he can’t control.» If the score in a game widened too far beyond the betting line, Donaghy told Martino, Donaghy would be powerless to rein it back in. Because then «you gotta call a lot of fouls,» Martino said. «And it’s too obvious.»


A PROFESSIONAL GAMBLER once confronted Donaghy about the scandal. This was a few years after Donaghy’s release from prison. A close observer of basketball, the gambler had become acutely curious after suffering losses on Donaghy-reffed games during that season.

The gambler described the conversation with Donaghy to me on the condition that I not use his name in the story. To the gambler’s enduring surprise, Donaghy acknowledged that, yes, he deliberately called more fouls against the side he’d bet against. He told the gambler about other tactics as well.

«He said he liked to call an illegal defense call, right away, in the first minute.» That way, the gambler said, Donaghy could force the side he’d picked against to play a little less aggressively on defense. «He said he’d pick on the big center, or the most valuable player of each team, and he’d try to get them in foul trouble.»

The gambler added, «He also told me they were betting millions and he was an idiot not to ask for more.»


AND THEN THERE was a former friend of Donaghy’s named Aron Kulle, who recalled the time Donaghy came to his office in Sarasota in a state of high anxiety. Like so many others in Donaghy’s life, Kulle and the referee would eventually have a vitriolic falling-out; at one point, Donaghy won a stalking injunction against Kulle. But at the time of the visit, in late 2007, Kulle said, the men were close.

Since moving to Sarasota in 2005, Donaghy had often volunteered for the local youth sports leagues that Kulle ran out of a community center. Now, after Donaghy’s downfall but before he headed to prison, Donaghy broke down and wept inside Kulle’s office. «My life is ruined,» Kulle recalled Donaghy saying.

The office’s windows looked out onto a basketball court, where children on youth teams were just then practicing. Their sneakers squeaked on the hardwood. Kulle got up, crossed the room and closed the blinds. That’s when Donaghy «laid everything out» and «spilled everything,» Kulle said.

«He knew what the spreads were going to be. He knew how to control it. He knew how to get into other referees’ heads too, about different players … because [the other refs] would follow him. … He admitted to fixing the games.»

When Donaghy had finished, Kulle leaned back in his chair. He’d been raptly listening to the referee’s story — the gambling, the cash, the secrecy, the corruption, the endless search by human beings to gain an edge, the gross opportunism that seemed almost contagious, the almost shockingly easy fixing of a major American sport — but now there was one big thing on Kulle’s mind, and it wasn’t the moral of the story. Or, actually, it was the moral of this story.

«If what you’re telling me is true,» Kulle said he told Donaghy, «you’re gonna be rich.»

Kulle’s eyes were practically dollar signs. He was already thinking, How can I get a piece of this action? Can I maybe even invest in this thing? In that moment — like the many people before him who’d expanded and abetted the scheme and profited from it — Aron Kulle sensed opportunity.

«All I’m seeing,» he said he told Donaghy, «is a movie.»

Additional research by Jim Keller.

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